New parent classes tend to be geared toward moms or families.
But there aren’t as many resources for men, said Monica Covarrubias, who coordinates perinatal educational programs for Queen of the Valley Medical Center.
“We need to do something for dads, too,” she said.
That’s why Queen of the Valley began offering its Daddy Boot Camp class more than a year ago.
A half-dozen first-time dads met at Queen of the Valley Medical Center on Saturday morning for a free Daddy Boot Camp. It’s the first male-only prenatal group in the North Bay, and more than 50 dads have completed the local program so far. One even traveled from Sacramento to attend.
Two dads of older kids, Miguel Castañón and Jesus Chavez, facilitated the discussion. Darryl Williams and Logan McConnell, two dads of month-old babies, brought their daughters and offered advice, tips and shared their experiences as new fathers. Darryl’s daughter, Gabriella, and Logan’s daughter, Sonora, slept peacefully throughout the class.
The men learned about the importance of teamwork, how to support women during delivery, how to safely install car seats and what to do if they or their partner face postpartum depression. They talked measles vaccines, decoding baby cries, birth plans and more.
Castañón gave a diaper-changing demonstration, and Williams and McConnell broke out their diaper bags, sharing their favorite, must-have baby-changing products with other dads.
Williams spoke of a need to “figure out how to catch up” to a mom who regularly feeds the child and has already spent nine months bonding with him or her. McConnell said he bonds with his daughter by letting her lay on his chest, and looking at colors and listening to music with Sonora.
They talked about difficulties, too. Williams shared his difficulty swaddling Gabriella, who “broke out of them like the Hulk,” and McConnell talked about a confusing combination of exhaustion, anger and sadness he felt when listening to Sonora wail nonstop.
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Sam Sweeley of Vallejo, soon-to-be dad of a little girl due in October, said he appreciated the emotional vulnerability of the other men in the room and learning about “dad hacks.”
“Try to absorb as much as you can before the baby comes,” he said. “Once it happens, that’s where your time goes.”
The class is based on the Boot Camp for New Dads curriculum, a nonprofit that was created in 1990 after a group of dads took their babies to their local hospital to coach soon-to-be-dads, according to the Boot Camp for New Dads website. The curriculum is used in places such as hospitals and churches nationwide. More than 325,000 dads in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have completed the Boot Camp.
The Boot Camp curriculum was comprehensive and included bringing in a new dad with their baby, Covarrubias said. Some might be nervous to hold a baby or change a diaper.
“It really lets soon-to-be-dads see what a new baby looks like,” Covarrubias said.
It’s also important that dads learn more about postpartum depression and know that it can affect them, too. Covarrubias said one estimate puts dad’s risk at 2 to 25 percent. That risk can increase if the mom has postpartum depression too, she said.
The class focuses on the importance of dads bonding with their kids, though women are biologically wired to be possessive of their children. Addressing issues of infant bonding and attachment improves long-term health, Covarrubias said.
The Daddy Boot Camp is one of more than a dozen free maternity and family education classes offered by Queen of the Valley. St. Joseph Health, which operates Queen of the Valley, said it spent more than $100 million in free classes and programs, subsidized services, discounted care and more across its five hospitals.
The class takes place on the third Saturday of odd-numbered months. The next class will be held on Sept. 21. Dads can sign up on Queen of the Valley’s website, thequeen.org/events-calendar.